Gender Inclusive Language and Worship
Language about or addressed to God should be derived from human experience, not just from men’s experience, argues Prof. Adrian Thatcher, of Modern Church, in a new booklet.
In the 36-page booklet, Gender Inclusive Language and Worship, Professor Thatcher advocates the use of language which does not privilege men over women, in Christian theology, hymnody, liturgy and prayer.
Gender-inclusive language recognizes that God is beyond the distinctions of sex - it differs from ‘gender-neutral’ language which avoids the use of personal pronouns such as ‘he’ and ‘him’, or ‘she’ and ‘her’. Gender-inclusive language is personal language drawn from the whole range of human experience, including and especially women.
He explores the movement away from the use of the term ‘Man’ as a term assumed to include women ‘silently and invisibly.’ He writes:
When theologians (and doctors, philosophers and lawyers) spoke of ‘man’ or ‘men’, they included women, but only as lesser versions of themselves.
Since the 1980s, feminists have accused institutions in general, and churches in particular, with sexism - the privileging of one sex and its interests over another sex and its interests:
Any assumption that one sex is more perfect, or more valuable, or cleverer, or more like God, or better able to represent Christ, is sexist. Liberal-minded Christians agree with feminists about sexism. They have been generally happy to accept the modern idea that there are two sexes, and the still later idea that these two sexes are ‘equal’. An advantage of the modern view is that it removes the demeaning implication that women are in any sense inferior to men.
Professor Thatcher examines why gender-inclusive language is a problem for churches, and provides practical suggestions and discussion questions to enable church groups to engage meaningfully with the issues and explore how to be more intentional in creating a more inclusive worship experience for all Christians of any gender.
Gender Inclusive Language and Worship by Professor Adrian Thatcher is a Forewords booklet published by Modern Church, one of a long running series designed to illustrate liberal approaches to theological issues of concern to the Church. Other titles address sexuality, interfaith priorities, liberal Anglicanism, liberal theology and the problem of evil.
Prof. Adrian Thatcher is Honorary Professor in the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, and Honorary Fellow in Medical Humanities in the Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine & Dentistry. Click here to visit his website.
Modern Church is a membership organisation that promotes liberal theology. It encourages open, respectful debate and discussion of matters relating to Christian faith. It was founded at the end of the 19th century as a Church of England society. Now it welcomes all who share its ethos. To find out more, visit modernchurch.org.uk